Utagawa Kunisada III, New Kabuki Play, Meiji Theatre


Artist: Utagawa Kunisada III (1848-1920) [signed as Hosai]
Title: Akechi Samanosuke, a New Kabuki Play at the Meiji Theatre
Publisher: Ishijima Yae
Date: 1896
Dimensions: (L) 24.9 x 36.9 (C) 24.9 x 37 (R) 24.9 x 36.8 cm

Original Japanese woodblock print.


A striking kabuki theatre triptych, incorporating two scenes from a play on the historical figure Akechi Hidemitsu (c. 1536-1582). A samurai of Japan's Warring States period (c. 1467-1600), Hidemitsu cemented his name in history by leading an attack on Honnō-ji Temple, the incident which led to the death of Japan's greatest warlord at the time, Oda Nobunaga (1534-1582). Depicted in the woodblock print is Hidemitsu's legendary exploit: the crossing of Lake Biwa on horseback after the Battle of Yamazaki (1582). With a bold and dynamic design, a diagonal cut demarcates different moments in the drama. The boundary is playfully broken, with the horse's ear crossing over to the next theatrical vignette. The onset of photography and the growing popularity of the Western arts in Meiji period Japan (1868-1912), seemingly pushed woodblock print artists to explore more novel modes of expression unique to their own particular art form.

Kunisada III Utagawa (1848 - 1920)

Utagawa Kunisada III was an ukiyo-e printmaker of the Utagawa school, specializing in yakusha-e (pictures of kabuki actors). He began studying under Utagawa Kunisada I at the age of 10, and continued under Kunisada II after their master's death. He originally signed his prints ‘Kunimasa’ or ‘Baido Kunimasa’. About 1889, he began signing his prints ‘Kunisada’, ‘Baido Kunisada’ or ‘Kochoro Kunisada’. By 1892, he was using ‘Hosai’, ‘Kochoro Hosai’, ‘Baido Hosai’, and ‘Utagawa Hosai’.

More Information
Print FormatTriptych
ArtistKunisada III Utagawa (1848 - 1920)
SubjectSamurai & Male, Male & Female, Kabuki Theatre
Size(L) 24.9 x 36.9 (C) 24.9 x 37 (R) 24.9 x 36.8 cm
Condition ReportPinhole. Minor creases.